Post-Election Workplace Vigilance

There are some disturbing post-election trends that could have an impact on your workplace and which suggest stepping up your efforts to make the work environment safe and secure for all your employees. There are widespread reports of a sharp increase in hate crimes, harassment, and racist incidents. Trying to make a direct link between Donald Trump’s inflammatory and disparaging remarks aimed at various groups of people – racial and ethnic minorities, women, immigrants from Syria, Muslims, the LGBT community and so on, is not the point of this article. The point is to document what is actually happening in order for you to decide what measures your company must take to keep your workplace safe.

The New York Police Department has documented a 115% increase in bias crimes in the weeks after the election, a figure helping make 2016 a bad year with an overall 35% increase in hate crimes. In New York the victims have primarily been Jews, Muslims, and the LGBT community. The problems in New York have prompted both the Governor and the state’s Attorney General to announce new anti-bias initiatives (source). And that’s just in New York. Incidents are being reported all across the country. Below is a selection of some of the media stories that have been published on the subject:

To be fair, there are also those who think the alleged spike in hateful incidents is largely a media-induced phenomenon (source). You can read the reports and decide for yourself, but this is one of those cases where erring on the side of safety is probably the best policy. As one employment and labor lawyer put it:

“However, Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, sometimes referred to as ‘misogynistic’ or ‘racist,’ has seemingly resulted in an increase in post-election hate crimes, suggesting that we may see an increase in workplace harassment and hostile environments despite the president-elect’s admonition to offenders to ‘stop it’” (source). What can employers do?

Have company leadership send out a message reminding everyone that discriminatory behavior and hateful commentary will not be tolerated in the workplace. Take as your example someone like Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose post-election message to employees was a stellar example of corporate leadership. He emphasized how success depends on rising above the political stances that divide employees and working together towards common corporate goals. He clearly stated that Apple is about diversity and inclusion. He asked employees to be sensitive to each other’s emotional states, emphasizing empathy rather than focusing on political differences. In short, it was brilliant (source).

An example of how not to do it would be GrubHub CEO Matt Malone’s post-election message to employees, which seems to have added more fuel to divisive political fires than he probably intended. The difference between Maloney and Cook is that Maloney vilified Trump in his message, which means he served to heighten the tension rather than defuse it. And the way he said it could easily be construed as a suggestion that if you voted for Trump you should resign. He didn’t say that, but many people took it that way (source).

If you’ve been contemplating new diversity and inclusion programming, step up those efforts and fast-track them to show how serious the company is in combating hate in the workplace. Keep all messaging positive, but also firm in not tolerating hate in the workplace.

For whatever reason, there are haters all across the country that apparently feel emboldened. They seem to think racist and xenophobic harassment is suddenly something they can feel free to dole out. It is the responsibility of everyone in the fields of human resources and talent management to keep these trends from appearing and taking root in the workplace. Please do your part.

January 3, 2017   Updated :January 3, 2017   harassment, trump, workplace safety   

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